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Fewer than 20 percent of Americans with disabilities are employed

According to labor and employment data from the government, about 29 million Americans who have a disability are of the appropriate age to work in California and throughout the country. However, only about 18 percent of these disabled individuals are employed. This means that out of the nearly 30 million people who have disabilities and are of the appropriate age to work, only a little over 5 million have jobs.

Of course, some disabilities are severe and prevent people from being able to care for themselves or from being able to participate in a variety of activities, including work. But there are also many disabled people who have useful skills. Some argue that it is harder for the disabled to find jobs because of the competitive job market. Others argue that employers are not doing enough to accommodate American workers who have disabilities.

Government data shows that four years ago at least 20 percent of people with disabilities were employed. The number of employed Americans who have disabilities may have dropped due to the economy, but the National Council on Disability argues that many employers are still prejudiced when it comes to hiring disabled workers. Employers worry that accommodating disabled workers' needs will be too costly, causing employers to overlook valuable skills these workers may be able to bring to the workplace.

Although the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits employers from discriminating against disabled workers, the low employment rate of disabled Americans suggests that more needs to be done to encourage employers to hire workers who have disabilities.

In an effort to employ more disabled workers, the federal government is attempting to hire 100,000 disabled people over the next several years. Between 2010 and 2011, 15 percent of the government's new employees were disabled. This means that the federal government hired nearly 20,000 people with disabilities. The government hopes that its efforts will set an example for other employers to look past their prejudices, to follow employment laws, and to hire more workers with disabilities.

Source: Associated Press, "Little progress in last couple decades getting more people with disabilities into workforce," March 25, 2013

  • It is illegal for employers to discriminate against workers and job applicants on the basis of their disabilities. To learn more about employees' rights and protecting your rights in the workplace, please visit our San Diego disability discrimination attorneys page.